DIA, NZ Post launch RealMe single logon/ID verification service; Post pushes it to banks, others

Trade Me head of operations Mike O'Donnell

Usability and getting private sector users onboard are the keys to the success of the Department of Internal Affairs and NZ Post's new RealMe universal logon and ID verification system. So says a manager whose company runs one of the largest user verification databases in the country.

On government sites like the Companies Office, RealMe has replaced the old "iGovt" logon system (people can use their old iGovt logon name and password for the new system). Kiwibank, owned by NZ Post, is also adopting the new ID system.

"Historically iGovt has been dreadful to access and use, and has gotten in the way of making stuff happen rather than enabling it," Trade Me head of operations Mike O'Donnell tells NBR ONLINE.

"That’s why it never really took off.  Usability will be crucial to making RealMe work, so they will need to have the country’s best user interface folk working on it.  And the people building it will need to be very good at real-world execution to make it a meaningful proposition for everyday Kiwis."

Neither Mr O'Donnell nor Trade Me is involved with the RealMe working group, but he has discussed the project with KiwiBank - one of several banks accessing whether to adopt the system.

"As NZ  Post’s offline business gets increasingly knocked around by the move to online, it makes good sense for them to seek to pick up digital projects or launch their own like YouPost and YouShop," Mr O'Donnell says.  

"With RealMe, the challenge will be the extent to which NZ Post can supplement the compulsory users they will get from government services with voluntary users from the private sector."

One of the kickers to private sector uptake will be the new Anti Money Laundering (AML) legislation which may see some private sector operators who are judged to be financial Institutions undertake customer due diligence, including identity verification, Mr O'Donnell says. 

"Depending on how the AML is implemented, it may create a market opportunity for RealMe."

Trade Me is has its own its own proprietary trust and safety mechanisms including identifier tools. "They work pretty well for us.  At this stage we have no intention of using RealMe," Mr O'Donnell says.

Only as good as your password
"There is an increasing need for a strong and reliable verification service, and the DIA is taking on considerable responsibility as the provider of this service," NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker says.

"Users of the service should be reminded that the service can only be as strong as their password, and should choose a particularly strong password for this service. That password should also be unique. Most 'hacked' accounts are actually accessed because users used the same password on another site that was compromised." 

ABOVE: A DIA/NZ Post promo clip for the new service.


EARLIER: The Department of Internal Affairs and NZ Post have today soft-launched a new single log-on and verification service called RealMe, developed in concert with Datacom for around $10 million.

The new service went live yesterday as "igovt" logons to the Companies Office were replaced by RealMe.

There are around one million igovt logons although some people have created more than one.

RealMe works on two levels.

One a single logon name and password that can be used across 13 government agencies.

The other is to verify your identity - which after initial online registration requires a real-world trip to a post office to have your photo taken.

NZ Post is charged with commercialising the technology, and driving RealMe's adoption by the private sector.

Head of agency services Mandy Smith tells NBR that NZ Post is in advanced negotiations with several banks and insurance companies. She expects announcements to be made within weeks.

"We know it's light on services at launch," NZ Post spokesman Michael Tull told NBR yesterday.

There is no fee involved for end users. NZ Post will make money by charging organisations for each time someone's identiy is verified by RealMe, Ms Smith says.

Re-verification will be required once every five years, says David Philp, general manager identity andd ata services for the Department of Internal Affairs.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz


 
RAW DATA: NZ Post press release
 
2 July 2013
 
Government-backed online identity verification system – ‘RealMe’ ready to go
 
From this week, New Zealanders can begin signing up for RealMe - the only online identity verification service backed by the New Zealand government.
 
Instead of waiting in line with paper identity documents each time they want a service requiring ID from a government or private sector organisation, people will soon be able to prove their identity online with RealMe and apply for services from home.
 
People can create a RealMe login online – which allows them to use one username and password to access participating government and private sector websites using the RealMe service. The RealMe service becomes truly powerful when the user completes a one-off identity verification process (involving a visit to a PostShop), after which they will be able to use their verified RealMe account online to apply for services from participating organisations online.
 
The RealMe service is free of charge to individuals and re-verification is only required once every five years, says David Philp, General Manager Identity and Data Services for the Department of Internal Affairs.
 
“The Department and New Zealand Post are working together to give customers a smart, secure, easy-to-use service which enables them to prove who they are online and access services, via a RealMe verified account.
 
RealMe also makes it easier for government agencies to play their part in achieving the Government’s target of enabling New Zealanders to do more online. Thirteen government agencies currently use RealMe login to offer 43 services across central and local government.”
 
RealMe spokesperson Mandy Smith says that “a verified RealMe account will, over time, allow people to fully access services online. Currently they have to physically visit the offices of organisations and show photo ID to get some services. A verified RealMe account will enable the provision of services online to truly grow enabling the digital economy.”
 
The RealMe team are currently signing up a number of organisations with specific focus on the banking and finance sector, given the AML/CFT Act’s ‘know your customer’ requirements that have recently come into force. In the medium to long term, the goal is to grow widespread use across all sectors where digital identity is needed to improve customer experience, meet customer digital preferences and reduce costs.
 
By completing the verified RealMe account requirements now early adopters – including anyone who holds one of the over 970,000 RealMe logins (previously the igovt logon) – will be ready when major services come on-stream in the months ahead.
 
Mandy Smith commented "a verified RealMe account gives individuals control over the identity information they share with government agencies or private sector companies when they are applying for a government or private sector service. The RealMe service does not hold any of the verified information, it simply enables you to share it securely."
 
“A verified RealMe account will, in effect vouch for you online – that you are who you say you are – when you want to access participating services.”
Strict processes are in place – including regular reviews – to ensure that the privacy of information about individuals held by member organisations is preserved at all times.

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5 Comments & Questions

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Imagine the havoc and carnage that will be able to be wreaked if your account is hacked.

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Parallel to but separate from the existing photo recognition areas of passports and driving licences?

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As it includes a digital photo, why not use it to simplify and speed up passport and driving license renewals. Hopefully, reducing the cost to renew the passport application below the current levels.

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So given the data and privacy breaches by multiple government departments in the last year, what confidence would you have in the government "managing" your authoritative digital ID? Happy to wait for a year or two to see how reality works, thank you very much.

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Imagine the havoc and carnage when the RealMe centralised database is hacked.

What they are doing here is creating yet another big fat target awaiting some kind of failure. Centralised systems are fragile, so failures easily escalate to catastrophic systemic collapse. And it is a problem inherent in any national govt. IT solution due to the underlying social construct they are trying to adapt to. That is a factor in why so many big, centralised govt. IT projects are unwieldy, leak privacy like sieves and ultimately fail or are "mothballed".

Decentralised, open source solutions are the long term future. There are already some out there ... and they cost somewhat less than $10 million, like free. Robust IT solutions may even drive robust community organisational arrangements in the long term. Like devolved power back to provinces, towns based upon decentralised networks of small, local, manageable hardened robust IT systems.

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